Have sports betrayed us?

Today I want to talk to you about sports and betrayal. If you’re a fan of the Baltimore Colts you remember the name Robert Irsay. Irsay brought moving vans into the city of Baltimore the middle of the night, loaded up the football team and moved them to the city of Indianapolis. Fans were shocked as their team left, literally in the dead of night.

The Cleveland Browns experienced something of the same betrayal when Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns after decades in that city. He moved them to the city of Baltimore, where they have gone on to real success as the Baltimore Ravens, leaving Cleveland betrayed with a franchise that was brand new and has never been that successful.

The greatest betrayal in sports though is probably reserved for major league baseball. On May 28, 1957 a man by the name of Walter O’Malley, applied to the ruling counsel of Major League Baseball and a move was approved for him to take the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team loving referred to by their fans as “Dem Bums.” He moved the Brooklyn Dodgers all the way across country so that they became the Los Angeles Dodgers. The betrayal was palpable. In fact, even today there are people who were not born in 1957 who still hate the Dodgers because of their betrayal of Brooklyn.

In the late 50’s there was a joke that circulated in the New York city area. The joke said, “If you had a gun that only had two bullets and you were in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and O’Malley, who would you shoot?” And the answer to the question was, “O’Malley of course. I’d shoot him twice.”
While those betrayals are legendary in professional sports, they pale by comparison to the betrayal that we are watching in our generation as all of professional sports betray American culture in general. In fact, we come to the place where we’ve begun to wonder if we even need to root for our sports team anymore, whether they have a part to play in our lives.

In 1936 sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In 1938 Joe Lewis had a first-round knockout against a German fighter named Max Smelling. Since the 30’s, sports in America have served as a powerful racial unifier in this country. The victories earned by Owens and by Lewis punctured Hitler’s Aryan superiority myth and made these two men able to unify black and white Americans in their celebration. They were established as the first black national heroes.

Owens and Lewis laid the foundation for the Brooklyn Dodger’s General Manager, Branch Ricky a few years later to break the segregation barrier in Major League Baseball by employing a black man by the name of Jackie Robinson. The partnership between Ricky and Robinson changed history. In fact, it was another decade after Robinson that Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s was inspired.

America has been a shining example of the transformative power of sports. The games we play, the games that are at the center of our social behavior, those games have traditionally combined with the founding principles of this nation to enhance the American experience. America’s enemies know this which is why the culture has now moved its war on America into our arenas and stadiums.

Sports are now in the crosshairs much like our founding fathers. They are under attack for past racial sins even while they are underappreciated for the vital role that they have played to promote racial reconciliation in this country.

Thomas Jefferson is vilified because he owned slaves. And yet, by righting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson made the elimination of slavery inevitable in America. In the same way, American sports were once segregated but no American industry in any field has had the ability to match sports as an industry that can empower black men and women.

But while American sports have never been influential, apparently, they’ve never been more vulnerable. Colin Kaepernick four years ago defied the National Anthem in 2016 by taking a knee and the Left ceased on the opportunity to politicize the National Football League. Football was forced into a kind of progressive posturing that was already present in Hollywood and in the National Basketball Association. Underestimating the determination of the Left, Roger Goodell and the other executives of the NFL decided to wait out the controversy, thinking that eventually it would die away and disappear. Instead, four years later the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA have all been forced to take their own knees and pay homage to a dishonest Black Lives Matter narrative about police brutality.

The entire American sports world, a culture that traditionally celebrates victors, meritocracy, color blindness and patriotism, that traditional sports culture has suddenly immersed itself in black victimization and Left-wing radicalism. This immersion threatens to do permanent damage to American culture as a whole. It has certainly undermined national pride. And the reality is, a country that no longer believes in its founding ideals cannot prosper or even survive.

There are famous betrayals throughout sports history. They tend to become legendary. We tell the stories again and again with a kind of righteous indignation. And yet the greatest betrayal of them all is the betrayal of American culture by our sports heroes, our athletes and our executives in this day.

So how do we process our response to this betrayal of sports from a Biblical mindset? Well, let me give you some scripture to help frame your personal response as a follower of Jesus.

There are three intentional considerations that I’d like to offer. The first is, you need to have a proper attitude toward cultural pastimes. For example, in Leviticus 18:1-5 God gives Moses instructions to give Israel.

The LORD spoke to Moses: "Speak to the Israelites and tell them: I am the LORD your God. Do not follow the practices of the land of Egypt, where you used to live, or follow the practices of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. You must not follow their customs. You are to practice My ordinances and you are to keep My statutes by following them; I am the LORD your God. Keep My statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am the LORD.

In other words, have a proper attitude about cultural pastimes. Let us never again find ourselves so caught up professional sports that we’re willing to sacrifice what we understand by God’s Word to be right and true and truly just, just because we want to watch a game on a Saturday afternoon. Have a proper attitude towards cultural pastimes.

But secondly, establish a proper priority for God’s Word in your life. In Proverbs 2:10-15, it says this:

"For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will delight you. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, it will rescue you from the way of evil— from anyone who says perverse things, from those who abandon the right paths to walk in ways of darkness, from those who enjoy doing evil and celebrate perversion, whose paths are crooked, and whose ways are devious."

The Bible tells us that when you let the Word of God be implanted in you, it gives you a protection in your thought life that comes from digesting the Word of God so that we have the mindset, we have the ability to evaluate what we see around us by the Word of God. There are a lot of people confused about what their response should be to professional sports. Well, if we’ve made a commitment to not be locked into a loyalty that is unhealthy for our soul, and if we’ve digested the Word of God so that it becomes a standard by which we can evaluate what we’re being told by our sports heroes, it will protect us moving forward.

There’s one last thing, be sure you have a proper standard for the role models that you follow. Let me give you a couple of verses here that give us guidelines about choosing role models. One, they need to have a hear for God. In 1 Samuel 16:6 the prophet Samuel makes his way to the house of a man name Jesse. And he knows that there is a potential king for Israel among the sons of Jesse. Jesse brings out all of his sons and parades them before the prophet while Samuel awaits to here from the Lord who the chosen king is going to be. It says in 1 Samuel 16 that there was a son by the name of Eliab and he was a strapping man tall, strong, handsome. And Samuel said, “Certainly the LORD’s anointed one is here.” He looked at everything about this athletic, bold young man and said, “This kid looks like a king.”

But here was God’s answer (7). "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the LORD sees, for humans see what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.'"

We need to quit elevating people who look strong, who run fast, who play sports well. And we need to begin to search for role models first of all, who have a heart for God.

But there’s another standard. It’s in Hebrews 13:7. The writer of that book tells us this.
Remember your leaders who have spoken God's word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.

If Samuel teaches us that our role models need to people that we can recognize as having a heart for God, that’s more important than their athletic prowess or physical skills or personal appearance. We want to find men and women that have a hear t for God. But the writer of Hebrews tells us, we also want somebody who by the demonstration of their lives show that they have put God first. Find true heroes not merely pop culture distractions.

I’ve always loved sports. And there was a time when my interest in sports enhanced my life with the values of teamwork, integrity, and camaraderie. If those days are now past, let us find new avocations, new hobbies, new role models. And if we do that, if we let professional sports recede into the shadows, if we refuse to highlight men and women who are taking us down a dangerous path as a nation, maybe, just maybe the moral collapse of big-time sports in America will be for our benefit in godliness.

Don’t chase after idols but seek after truth now, today more than ever.

This is TruthCurrents.
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